In a divided vote, the state Assembly passed a landmark overhaul of the health and pension benefits for public employees in a historic defeat for New Jersey’s powerful unions and a political victory for Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Under the provision, now headed to Christie's desk, public employees will have to pay more for their benefits.
Assembly members, who debated the bill for almost three hours, approved the legislation in a 46-32 vote in a largely partisan vote. Booing erupted in in the gallery after the bill passed.
Supporters of the bill — including Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) — have said the state needs to cut costs because the pension and health systems are underfunded by more than $120 billion total.
Christie, who has staked his reputation on shrinking government costs, has called the bill an example for the rest of the country. New Jersey is one of 23 states that have asked employees to pay more for their pensions since the Wall Street financial crisis battered retirement systems in 2008, according to the Pew Center on the States.
This was not unexpected, but it is a truly devastating development for state workers, who are taxpayers and voters. What should also not come as a surprise: this is an election year. And in just a few weeks, Democrats who joined Republicans in voting to gut working people will come to the unions with their hands out.
This time, "Where else you gonna go?" is NOT going to cut it.